AbuseThe Benefits of Therapy for Survivors of Abuse

Abuse can be physical, sexual, verbal or emotional and it can affect those from all walks of life. The #Metoo movement has shown that rich Hollywood actresses are just as at risk as young girls at the mercy of grooming gangs. And men are not immune.

All types of abuse can cause pain or mental distress. The saying “sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me” is often quoted to bullied children but this bears little resemblance to reality. Psychological wounds often take longer to heal than physical injuries. Disturbing memories, anxiety, fear of intimacy and lack of trust are common behaviours in survivors of abuse. These issues can be overcome or lessened with person-centred therapy for survivors of abuse.

A therapist is often the first point of contact for a person seeking mental health care and the primary role of a therapist is to help people process challenges in their lives. They often help individuals navigate conflict, resolve internal struggles and address mental health conditions.

In order to find the right therapy for victims of abuse, you need to consider the type of abuse a person is suffering. The individual may experience more than one form of distress, for example, someone who is sexually abused may also suffer emotional abuse at the same time. The abuse could take place in the home, at work, in a social situation or they may be attacked by a stranger.

The abuse could also take the form of manipulation or control. This includes criticism, coercion, humiliation, threats or child neglect. Physical or psychological abuse within an intimate relationship is classed as “intimate partner violence”. This was made a criminal offence in the UK in 2015. The psychological abuse is often a precursor to physical violence and the anticipation is often more terrifying than the act itself.

Any form of abuse negatively impacts on a person’s life and can cause significant emotional or psychological problems. The severity of the repercussions can vary depending on many factors, such as how well the person knew their abuser, whether they were believed when they told friends, family, teachers, social workers or police officers about the abuse and how they traumatic the abuse was.

For children who have been abused, this can affect their academic performance and social skills, and relationships with family members. Adults may experience difficulty maintaining healthy relationships or their productivity at work may suffer. Survivors of abuse may experience depression, anxiety, anger, dissociation, mood swings, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), shame, self-destructive behaviour and trust issues.

Therapy can help survivors of abuse express and process difficult emotions. They can then develop compassion and self-care strategies to stop being overwhelmed by emotion and learn to trust again. Types of therapy for victims of abuse include person-centred therapy, narrative therapy, mindfulness, art therapy and animal-assisted therapy.

Therapy allows survivors of abuse to express their feelings in a safe and confidential environment. Over time therapy can lessen the feelings of shame, guilt and alienation and help survivors begin to feel empowered and whole again. It is also a better option for those who may feel vulnerable, embarrassed or exposed discussing it with a friend or family member and prefer a private one-on-one discussion. This gives a more intimate, personalised experience, which benefits the individual’s mental health.

If you, or someone you know, could benefit from therapy, I specialise in helping individuals who have experienced trauma, and as I operate on a people-centred basis, the conversations are always controlled by you at a pace you are comfortable with. I’m based near Warrington and easily accessible from Warrington, Chester, Altrincham, Knutsford, Northwich and Tarporley. Please do get in touch.